Beached 'ghost ship' under guard in Liberia surfer paradise

2016-05-14 07:15
The empty Panama-flagged tanker, Tamaya 1, that drifted onto the beach in Robertsport, western Liberia. (Zoom Dosso, AFP)

The empty Panama-flagged tanker, Tamaya 1, that drifted onto the beach in Robertsport, western Liberia. (Zoom Dosso, AFP)

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Robertsport - When an empty oil tanker drifted onto a Liberian beach, it disturbed golden shores usually troubled only by baby crabs, and raised rumours of everything from an Islamist invasion to a ghost crew.

Robertsport is more usually known as a surfers' paradise, attracting beach bums from afar to its epic breaks and chilled nightlife.

But when visited by AFP journalists this week, the vessel was under police guard after episodes of attempted looting.

Authorities in Liberia are investigating the Panama-flagged tanker, named Tamaya 1, which drifted onto the shore on May 3, but for now its back-story is a mystery.

All that is known is that the ship had last signalled its position at 10:00 on April 22, hours after leaving the port of Dakar, Senegal.

"Citizens of Cape Mount noticed the presence of the ship for more than three days and could not see anyone coming out of it. That created security concerns, people even got panicked", said the superintendent of Grand Cape Mount County, Tenneh Kpadebah.

"Some youths went in and they discovered that no crew members were there and no one was in the vessel.

"I called security officials because this is a security matter, and they have deployed men around the vessel," she added.

The ship still sits metres from the shore, painted red with Chinese characters imprinted on its side, with burnt sections visible on the walls of its control room and mast.

Rumours rife 

Sergeant Himie Merchant, who is part of the team guarding the vessel, said his police support unit were called in after reports of disturbances on the beach.

Officers arrested some looters, while others escaped, Merchant said. However, it is not known what - if anything - was actually taken from the ship.

Still the rumour mill in the area was running at full capacity, said Merchant, who is seeking to play down fears among the local community of an elaborate terrorist plot by west African jihadist group Boko Haram.

"There is no security threat. Because [there is] news going to town saying that Boko Haram entered Cape Mount; but of course, it's not true."

Emmanuel Belema, 34, isn't to be persuaded. "No one can convince me that no one was on the ship. If people were there then where have they gone? I believe that we have to realise that this is how Boko Haram get into areas," he said.

Palm trees rustled, and waves lapped the shore as he spoke, but the idea of gunfire and attackers seemed very off.

On Friday, a security source confirmed to AFP that the vessel's lifeboat had been located 200km down the coast, spreading the mystery even further afield.

"The lifeboat of Tamaya 1 was seen floating on the ocean yesterday (on Thursday) in Buchanan [a port city]. No one was on board," the source said.

Read more on:    boko haram  |  liberia  |  maritime

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